Pioneering green initiatives that train young people to monitor and advise community members on household energy consumption could help local councils retain skilled youth.
The programs were created through a partnership between the Dusseldorp Skills Forum and private company Steplight.
“We are about engaging with local communities and training young people to do this work,” said project manager from the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, Lesley Tobin.
Y Green aims to provide skills development for young people aged 15 to 25 through training and paid employment to undertake home sustainability assessments and consultations in their local community.
Trainee consultations undertaken by the students include providing advice and information on household energy and water efficiency.
The igreen program is an accredited secondary school training program that helps students assess their own households and ten other homes within the school community.
Both programs use an online software tool to support assessors in providing specific information on possible sources of energy savings and the provision of expert advice to residents.
The software also generates aggregated results to gauge the success of local initiatives and identify areas where improvements could be made in energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions.
“Training and support is given to both the school program and the council program and that’s part of the value of the program, it actually gives councils and schools a way to get across these issues and develop some skill sets around it,” said chief research officer for Monash Sustainability Institute, Janet Stanley, who undertook the modelling of both programs for Dusseldorp Skills Forum.
“It helps school children broadly not only understanding energy saving but it will give them business practice skills, personal development and personal interaction… it’s an all-round training program and supports them in getting out in the field and doing it.”
YGreen programs run in Rouse Hill in Western Sydney, Lismore/ Ballina and Whittlesea were shown to have a number of benefits for communities according to a review by the University of Western Sydney.
The program was found to increase community engagement among young participants and provide an increased knowledge of sustainability issues. Reviewers estimated that 1900kg of CO2 emissions were saved per participating household.
“Local government is being very overwhelmed by what they should do about sustainability, they’re getting bombarded by information or there’s big information holes,” Ms Stanley said.
“So [to have] actually given them a program that’s structured, works and is feasible and gives learning skills and can replicated once the initial program is run through, I would have thought would be of great value to many councils.”
Ms Stanley said that both programs could be continued by councils and schools with assistance from companies and community organisations in rolling them out.
“Then it becomes a community program and the community helps itself too… it’s a matter of making sure that the people who are likely to have an ongoing commitment to roll out the next are there, and it could run as a chain reaction. It’s got lots of strengths.”
Under scenarios created by Monash University’s modelling, if 50 per cent of local governments in Australia undertook both programs, it would be the equivalent to taking more than 45,000 cars off the road.
“One of the problems with climate change in my view was that people and companies are moving beyond government, and a program like this could be empowering and help people see a way through this themselves.”
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